Volleyball journey of Hosur boy Venu Chikkanna, world's second-best receiver under the age of 19

Venu Chikkanna left for the FIVB Volleyball Boys' U19 World Championship in Tehran eager to prove himself, and returned the second-best receiver.

Venu was adjudged as the second-best receiver and third-best digger at FIVB Volleyball Boys' U19 World Championship.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A young Indian volleyball talent has blossomed in the south, leaving preliminary footprints on the global stage. Venu Chikkanna left for the FIVB Volleyball Boys' U19 World Championship in Tehran eager to prove himself, and returned the second-best receiver.

What's more, he was also named the third best digger. The Tehran world championship, held between August 24 and September 2, was the first international tournament for the 18-year-old libero from Hosur, an industrial city on the border of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Venu missed being adjudged the best receiver by one point, edged out by Mikhail Labinskii of Russia.

“I was satisfied being ranked as the world’s second-best receiver, but immediately felt the need to improve. I want to play for the senior team and reach world standard. That is my dream,” says Venu, whose volleyball journey started on the streets of Hosur at the age of seven.

He joined Hosur’s Spikers Sports Club, but soon moved on to coach P. Leo, who trained him till Class 7.

“Under coach Leo, I learnt various aspects of volleyball, which I would not have known otherwise. Based on his suggestion, I went to study in Khajamian Higher Secondary School in Trichy after my seventh grade.”

ALSO READ | India U19 boys' volleyball team climbs 35 ranking places after Tehran world championship

Training under Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu, Trichy (SDAT) coach A. Krishna Chakravarthy from Class 8 to Class 12, Venu progressed to U-19 tournaments. “Having represented Tamil Nadu 10 times, I won medals in two Junior National Volleyball Championships: a bronze in my first junior nationals in 2018 and silver in 2020,” says Venu.

Now in his first year as a Bachelor of Computer Applications student at Sree Saraswathi Thyagaraja College in Pollachi, Venu trains under Chandrashekar Nayar.

When national trials were announced amid Covid-19 challenges to select the team for the U19 world championship, Nayar motivated Venu to give it his best shot. Venu was not confident, but Nayar told him not to worry about selection, and only focus on his performance. "When I went to the trials, I saw close to 550-600 players there, with nearly a 100 of them being liberos [a libero is a defensive specialist].”

The list of players was gradually whittled down to 20 for the camp, before 12 made it to the national squad. Venu made the cut, but not without dealing with another challenge — communicating in Hindi, a language he did not know.

In the four weeks of training before the world championship, he picked up enough to get by. “Almost all of them spoke in Hindi. I did find it difficult in the beginning. Slowly, I learnt the words needed while playing, like the defense and attack positions. After eight days, I became used to it and was able to understand what the rest were communicating,” says Venu.

“We were coached on our jumps, speed, agility and weight training. We built our team coordination in those four weeks, and the coaches trained us with the intent of making us future senior India team players.”

Venu says his maiden international tournament has been an education. “I learnt different tactics from the Poland team [who won the championship] — be it their service speed, setting or attacking speed. I want to play against them more often. I also liked playing against Egypt [a higher-ranked team than India] and we won the game in five sets.”

ALSO READ | Six-team Prime Volleyball League championship launched in Hyderabad

After returning from Tehran, Venu has started to attend college, but does not compromise on practice — from 6am to 8.30am, and again from 3.30pm to 6.30pm. His college supports his sporting ambitions.

Venu has no time to indulge. “I rarely get time for myself. When I do, I like to rest.” However, he watches a movie or two on weekends. His favourite movie is Irudhi Suttru [the Hindi version was titled Saala Khadoos], a movie on boxing, followed by the family-oriented Tamil movie Santosh Subramaniam.

The teen also likes to calm himself by listening to music. A fan of composer Yuvan Shankar Raja, Venu doesn’t have any favourite song. “I like motivational songs. Though I mostly listen to Tamil songs, I also listen to a few English ones now and then,” he says. A passionate foodie, Venu loves mutton fry and enjoys a good bowl of kesari.

Venu playing in an invitation match for STC, Pollachi.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

Eagerly waiting for state and national tournaments to start, Venu says, “I’m also waiting for Pro Volleyball league (now called Prime Volleyball League).” If selected, he wishes to improve himself and learn from experienced players of senior Indian team such as Naveen Raja Jacob and K. J. Kapil Dev.

The youngster keeps the world around him simple. The first people he informed about his achievement in the world championship were his first coach Leo, and his elder brother Manjunath.

Venu's focus, apart from his game, is his family. “My elder brother is my support system, guardian, and my everything," he says. "Since my mother is uneducated, he takes care and guides me.”

Name: Venu Chikkanna

Birthday: 30-04-2003

From: Hosur

Sport and Position: Volleyball, Libero

Aim: To play for the India’s senior volleyball team and become the best in the world.

International Tournament: FIVB Volleyball Boys' U19 World Championship (his first international tournament)

Hobbies: Reading about sports and athletes, watching movies related to sports, listening to music to calm mind

Studying: First year, BCA at STC, Pollachi, Tamil Nadu

Notable Awards: Was adjudged the second-best receiver and the third best digger in FIVB Volleyball Boys' U19 World Championship

Was a part of the Tamil Nadu that won bronze in junior national's volleyball championship in 2018 and silver in 2020

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :